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The Perils of Praline

The Perils of Praline - Marshall Thornton The Perils of Pauline was a classic in its own way and so should be the “Perils of Praline” as our hero Peter aka Praline “acquires enough adventures for a tell-all autobiography. With sequels.”First off, it’s important to understand the difference between a romance and a comedy. Comedies can have a romance in them in the same way that thrillers or action books have that element. However, romances revolve around plot and character.The best comedies revolve around humor and social statement. The plots can be flimsy or unlikely, the characters need to be extreme or at least remarkable, otherwise the humor drags.Perils of Praline is a great gay comedy.The social comment is leavened by amusing action. But it’s worth noting a few examples to show how slapstick humor can work so well with pithy barbs.Praline’s mother comes up with some gems. First off there are her Ten Commandments. Read the book to find out. As someone who lived by her own rules as to what was legal and what wasn’t. She liked “get-tough-on-crime-candidates” as they were the “small government” types and, as such, were unlikely to give police departments enough money to actually get-tough-on-crime, leaving her business safe.These barbs can also be comments on people’s foibles like this: “I love people who work hard. They’re great to have around – never forget to take credit for everything they do. It’s one of the ways to get ahead.” Or this classic:“Praline, I brought you up better than that.” Said his mama. “The man has licked your asshole. The least you can do is say ‘hey.’Mind you, Praline’s stereotypical Southern politeness gets him into lots of trouble!The story contains quite a few trueisms: “One of the best ways to get promoted, besides sleeping with the right people, is to fail spectacularly.”Comedies are also a great way to make a political comment: “He could pretend to be a high school pal in Hollywood before going off to a war zone (Praline decided not to be specific about which war zone because, well, to be honest he could never remember exactly which countries were currently being occupied).”Through the eyes of our clueless hero who, in times of stress, immersed himself in thoughts about different forms of confectionary and sweets, Thornton has a go at the culture that uses television and media to form their view of the world. Praline knew from his extensive television viewing that white people shot their spouses, white people devised confusing and illegal accounting scams, white people sent dangerous microbes through the mail, but white people did not drive around in enormous SUVs committing street crimes. They left that to the ethnicities.Marshall is a playwright by trade, and I could imagine sitting in a theatre and laughing at lines like these. His sardonic wit and a twisted way of saying things may not appeal to readers brought up on a diet of pure m/m romance.… he’d become a prostitute. Had (Praline) been given the luxury of considering this life-altering decision before it had actually occurred he would have declined the opportunity.There is an endearing childlike innocence to Praline whose choice of “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” as a “safe word” leads to all sorts of hilarious consequences in a BDSM scene. He may be naive, but Praline has a innate sense of what is right and wrong. Not just as expressed here:long discussions of politically incorrect perjoratives in the middle of a blowjob weren’t exactly, well, stimulating. However the characters around him aren’t so smart. One depressive when asked “Have you taken anything for it?” Answers“Sure, Crack, ecstasy, LSD, methamphetamine, Special K, alcohol and marijuana. Nothing works.”Good comedy makes statements about life, the Universe and shows like Sex and the City (not mentioned by name but clearly identified by)By the end of each episode, they’d managed to convince themselves, and the viewers, that it was they, and not the men they slept with and tossed aside, who were the victims.Like all good stories, Thornton’s main characters do learn from their experiences. In Praline’s case, just as well as“…there were few times in life when it seemed important to concentrate hard, so Praline had never gotten good at it.If you like sophisticated writing, coupled with biting humor, then I thoroughly recommend “The Perils of Praline.”My only quibble. Authors and editors please note. The following three words sound the same, but have quite different meanings. Please get them right. Your spell-checker won’t. To quote Merriam-Webster:PEEK1 a : to look furtivelyb : to peer through a crack or hole or from a place of concealment —often used with in or out2: to take a brief look : PEAK1: a pointed or projecting part of a garment; especially : the visor of a cap or hat 2: a sharp or pointed end3a (1) : the top of a hill or mountain ending in a point (2) : a prominent mountain usually having a well-defined summitb : something resembling a mountain peak4a : the upper aftermost corner of a fore-and-aft sailb : the narrow part of a ship's bow or stern or the part of the hold in it5a : the highest level or greatest degreeb : a high point in a course of development especially as represented on a graphPIQUEa transient feeling of wounded vanity: a fit of piquehowever, idiomatically, it is: pique someone's curiosity and pique someone's interest ie to arouse interest; to arouse curiosityit comes from the French verb Piquer - to sting, bite; to give a shotFrom an email discussion we had on typos. I gather Marshall is aware of these and they may have slipped in via the proofreader at MLR.